Idaho insurance exchange will use credit bureau to verify customers' IDs

adutton@idahostatesman.comSeptember 25, 2013 

When uninsured Idahoans use the Your Health Idaho website to buy health insurance through Idaho's insurance exchange starting next month, they will be quizzed about their biographies.

The exchange won't ask just for your Social Security number or your mother's maiden name. It will ask multiple-choice questions mirroring those asked by credit bureaus when you try to pull a credit report. At which address did you previously reside? Which bank did you use for a student loan? What credit card did you open in 2010? What was the color of your Volvo?

Representatives from the Idaho health insurance exchange said a credit bureau, Experian, will handle identity verification.

The databases that Experian could use to verify consumer information include utility companies, banks or motor-vehicle departments.

It isn't Idaho's decision to use a credit bureau — it's the federal government's.

The exchange, which got off to a late start this year after a long battle in the Idaho Legislature, will rely on federal technology to present Idaho's insurance offerings online for the exchange's first year. The federal technology is being overseen by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in Washington, D.C.

The exchange also will consider your income, employer health benefits and other information to decide whether you qualify for subsidized insurance and how much you must pay for coverage. People who earn up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level may qualify for subsidies in the form of tax credits that are paid directly to insurers.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services obtains consumer information "from multiple data sources such as the Social Security Administration and the [Internal Revenue Service," Jody Olson, spokeswoman for Your Health Idaho, said in an email to the Statesman. "These questions are asked to verify identity and protect individuals from fraud."

The exchange opens Tuesday. The universal insurance mandate under the Affordable Care Act takes effect Jan. 1.

The exchange's technology is still in the testing process in Idaho and other states, with insurers working with federal officials to solve problems.

The Experian Healthcare division on Monday announced a new tool that allows health care providers to "identify patients who meet the income requirements to receive health insurance exchange ... tax credits and federal subsidies," and to help "with the automation of the enrollment process by pre-populating the state's [exchange] application form."

A story in July by the New York Times said the Obama administration hired a unit of Equifax Inc., also a credit bureau, to help verify incomes of people applying for subsidies to buy insurance. Equifax would be allowed to use credit card applications and other sources, the Times reported.

Audrey Dutton: 377-6448

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